Plant and Soil

, Volume 332, Issue 1–2, pp 277–287 | Cite as

Soil organic carbon and nitrogen stocks in an age-sequence of poplar stands planted on marginal agricultural land in Northeast China

  • Rong Mao
  • De-Hui Zeng
  • Ya-Lin Hu
  • Lu-Jun Li
  • Dan Yang
Regular Article


Afforestation of marginal agricultural land has been considered to be an effective measure to sequester atmospheric CO2. In this study, we adopted the volume- and mass-based methods to investigate the changes in soil organic C and total N stocks in 100 cm depth following afforestation of marginal agricultural land using a chronosequence of poplar (Populus euramericana cv. “N3016”) stands in a semiarid region of Liaoning Province, Northeast China. Our results showed that soil organic C and total N concentrations in 45–60 cm layer increased gradually following afforestation of agricultural land, whereas in 60–100 cm layer, they declined initially, and then increased with stand development. Based on volume- and mass-based methods, such land-use change caused initial declines in soil organic C and total N stocks, and then increases between the stand ages of 10 and 20. Forest soils recovered to the initial soil organic C and N stocks found in agricultural land at age 15. However, the volume-based method would underestimate the absolute organic C and N stocks compared with the mass-based methods. Our results suggest that afforestation of marginal agricultural land has the potential to sequester atmospheric CO2 in soils in semiarid regions. Stand age, soil sampling depth and the methods used to quantify organic C and N stocks should be considered for accurate assessments of changes in soil organic C and N stocks.


Afforestation of agricultural land Carbon sequestration Chronosequence Land use change Nitrogen sequestration 



This work was funded by the National Key Technologies R&D Program of China (No. 2006BAD03A0502) and the National Natural Science Foundation of China (No. 30872011). We thank two anonymous reviewers and Fu-Sheng Chen for their helpful remarks on an earlier version of this manuscript. We also thank He-Ming Lin, Gui-Yan Ai and Jing-Shi Li for laboratory analyses, and other colleagues who participated in the field work.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media B.V. 2010

Authors and Affiliations

  • Rong Mao
    • 1
    • 2
  • De-Hui Zeng
    • 1
  • Ya-Lin Hu
    • 1
  • Lu-Jun Li
    • 1
    • 2
  • Dan Yang
    • 1
    • 2
  1. 1.Institute of Applied EcologyChinese Academy of SciencesShenyangChina
  2. 2.Graduate University of Chinese Academy of SciencesBeijingChina

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